Identical twin judges encourage COBA students to set goals despite adversities

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Identical twin judges encourage COBA students to set goals despite adversities

Alexis Butler, Senior Staff Reporter/Writer

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Judge Shera Grant became a district court judge in January 2016 (left) and Judge Shanta Owens (right) is a circuit court Judge for the 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama.

“Every journey begins with a plan,” said the Hon. Shera Grant, a Jefferson County District Court Judge in the Civil Division.

Grant was one of two speakers for the newly implemented Percy J. Vaughn, Jr. College of Business Administration (COBA) Distinguished Alumni Lecture series, along with her twin sister the Hon. Shanta Owens, who is a Jefferson County Circuit Judge for the Criminal Division.

Grant became a District Court judge in 2016, while Owens became the Circuit Court Judge in 2009.

Both Grant and Owens returned to share their journey to success on Oct. 17, in the John L. Buskey Auditorium. The two are 1999 graduates of Alabama State University who entered with goals of becoming a lawyer and a judge. Natives of Birmingham, Ala., the twins said that it was Kamela Kennedy, who at that time, served as a district recruiter, who gave them a university tour “which made them fall in love with the university.”

“Sometimes people say Shanta and I have had it easy when we really have not,” Grant said. Grant stated that in order to be successful you have to use your bad memories and experiences as motivation, “because we all have not had a great life.”

As children, Grant and Owen’s father committed suicide, but that did not stop their journey, especially with the motivation of their mother.

“My mother knew in order for us to get out of any bad situation education is the key,” Grant explained. They also witnessed their mother become a victim of domestic violence. “We never let that get in the way of who we were,” Grant said.
Grant used her negative experiences as her motivation to make a difference. When she, previously, worked at the District Attorney’s office she knew that she wanted to work in the domestic violence and sexual assault unit to be a voice for those who could not speak.

When it comes to success Grant thinks about the “Three C’s,” that include being content, commitment, and confident.

Grant knew in the seventh grade that she wanted to be a lawyer while Owens always wanted to be a judge.

The two were committed to learning more as they grew and they knew exactly what they wanted entering ASU.

“I want you to ask yourself, ‘what is my plan for life?’” Grant asked as she explained that a lot of people refer to luck when it comes to life, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, you must always be prepared for opportunities that come your way.”

According to Owens, it is important to have a mentor to prepare yourself for opportunity.

While in law school, Owens shared that her mentor was a former judge who became a judge at the age of 30, while she became a judge at the age of 31. “Do you see how life works? If you will choose a mentor and latch on to it is amazing how the universe will bring things to you,” she said.

Owens and Grant shared several stories with students and faculty, many of which held important lessons. “I will use these lessons to help me plan my success, to stay on top of my game,” said Diamond Webb, a Freshman from Thomaston, Ga.

Grant emphasized the importance of setting goals. “ If you see things then you’re more inclined to making those things happen,” Grant said. She has written down her goals since college and has continued to carry that tradition into her adult life. She has written down prominent goals like completing a book by 2020 and continuing her education, by attending a Master’s of Law program for her LL.M. Although, she has not, yet, completed her book she has been accepted to Duke University’s LL.M Judicial Studies program.

Along with writing down goals Grant and Owens discussed accountability.

“Being accountable for your own future and not putting your future in someone else’s hands… with accountability we have to talk about being responsible,” Owens said. “Please be responsible, don’t post your every feeling, don’t post profanity, don’t post pictures of you half naked… you don’t have to post it for the world to see,” Grant said, explaining the importance of social media etiquette.

Grant and Owens agreed that they are responsible for giving back. Kamal Hingorani, Ph.D, Dean of COBA, told Owens “These are your people and you have to come back and give to them.” Grant says that as alumni and current students [we] must maximize the Historical Black College and University (HBCU) experience, “we shouldn’t think about partying all the time; we need to give back, HBCU’s still matter.”

Another key to becoming successful is being determined. “Success comes to those who are hungry… what do you wake up hungry for to feed your desires?” Owens’ asked. The two urged students to not search for money post graduation, but look for a job that is prestigious and the money will come.

Students and faculty were impressed with Grant and Owens lecture. Management instructor, Kim Smith said “I think students need to see alumni who look like them and see that they can do the same thing, I like when alumni come back and share their success.”

When Owen’s entered the race to become judge she “sacrificed” everything including her job and new car. Owen’s and her husband shared a 1998 Nissan Altima for a year, “I wanted God to see my sacrifice,” she said. She made it clear that what happened to her could happen to any person sitting in that room if the work is implemented. Although hard-work is important, Grant said that it is also important that the right people recognize your work.

“What are you passionate about what are you willing to sacrifice,” Grant and Owens charged the audience to think about these things while on their path to success.